Project Safe Center

On November 17th, Cara Bell, and Wanda Swam came and spoke in our Sex and Society class. Cara Bell serves as the Associate Director for Student Accountability, Community Standards, and Academic Integrity at Vanderbilt University. Wanda Swan is a prevention educator and victim resource specialist within the Margaret Cuninggim Women’s Center. The reason they talked to us is to let us all know that there are resources on campus to get help or information if students ever are sexual assaulted. These two ladies are trying to expand safety not only at Vanderbilt University but also throughout the country.

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What’s Sex Got to do With… Superbad?

If you asked me to describe college in three general words I would probably say Academics, Activities, and Alcohol.  I call these the three A’s of college, and although they constitute a huge aspect of many people’s college experience, I would like to focus on alcohol in particular.  More specifically I want to address the role that alcohol plays in hooking up.  I’m sure we are all aware of alcohol’s role as a social drink or “social lubricant”.  Certain students get drunk to fit in with the crowd while others use this distorted state of mind to give them the confidence pursue a hookup.  Some men also encourage girls to drink lots of alcohol so that they are more likely to want to engage in intimate activity due to their drunken state of mind.  This concept of alcohol as a sexual tool is the theme for the popular comedy, “Superbad”.

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What’s Sex Got to do With… Sex Drive?

Technology and social media are aspects of our modern society that few can live without.  Apps and websites such as Facebook, Tinder, and Grindr, make social connecting simple; perhaps too simple.  Social media has a major influence on modern hook up and intimacy, and it has changed the way we interact with others.  Simply put, social media makes it easier to hook up with strangers and forget about the whole “get to know each other” ordeal (aka dating).  In the movie “Sex Drive” a teenager named Ian goes on a road trip with his two friends in hopes of hooking up with a gorgeous girl he met online.

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What’s Sex Got to do With… Easy A?

Most of us have probably experienced the social double standards associated with sex.  Guys who sleep with a lot of women are seen as charismatic players and girls who sleep around are seen as sluts.  This sexual double standard implies that a man and a woman can both sleep with five people over the span of a month, and the man will likely be hailed as a ladies man while the woman will be considered a whore.  This sexual phenomenon seems to permeate men and women of all ages.  The comedy film “Easy A” perfectly depicts this double standard in a modern high school setting.

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What’s Sex Got to Do With the Question: Does This Shirt Make Me Look Like a Slut?

Deborah L. Tolman discusses adolescent girls’ sexuality and the double standard surrounding it. Girls are expected to be sexy but not sexual, just as one of Hannah’s viewers commented that they wanted girls to sluts when with them but celibate elsewhere. The same binary is being reinforced in both statements. Tolman goes on to talk about “sexual socialization” which determines when it is appropriate to be sexual and to what extent.

In the video above Hannah Witton explores the idea of “dressing like a slut”. It’s a question she’s been asked time and time again, what type of clothes make a woman look like a slut? From here she then questions what does a slut even look like? In attempts to find an answer, Hannah begins by trying a whole variety of going out clothes. This led to Hannah raising a series of thought-provoking questions, about what defines a slut and how one could even tell who is a slut based on what they wear. She took to social media to determine what is a slut, asking people on Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook. Tumblr and Twitter users had fairly progressive definitions of what a “slut” is, acknowledging that it is a patriarchal concept and a derogatory term. Facebook users instead chose to describe a “slut” as a woman who has way too much sex or dresses like she does. Eventually she comes to the decision that there is no such thing as a slut, that every individual can decide for themselves how many people they sleep with. She furthers this statement, stating that the way a person dresses can in no way tell you how many people they sleep with.

This phenomena stating that the way a woman chooses to dress has anything to do with her sexual behavior is a very predominant ideal on college campus. While getting ready for a night out, I frequently have friends ask if the “shirt/shorts/skirt/dress” makes them look slutty; I’ve asked that question myself. As a female on a college campus, there often feels like there is a certain expectation to look attractive without looking too promiscuous. This creates a fine line between appropriate and inappropriate dress, with far different guidelines for the daytime and the nighttime. What often seems to hold the guidelines in place is the hook-up culture discussed by Bogle, females and males on college campuses seem to hold great value in who they hooked-up with (even if the definition of “hooking-up” varies greatly from person to person).

But why does what you wear have anything to do with your sexual history? For all you know, the girl in the teensy crop top and short shorts is a virgin and the girl in the turtleneck and jeans has slept with half the brothers in one fraternity. Does it even matter? Choice of dress and sexual history have no correlation or causation to connect each other, yet the impression that there is direct causation between the two seems to reign supreme. Is it that girls are told if they want to “get guys” they have to dress in skimpy, promiscuous-looking clothing, do girls who do want to have sex intentionally dress in those styles of clothing? Do you think the stereotypes reinforce the behavior or is there merit to the study?